Lies and Distortion in Arizona Threaten Religious Liberty

teenage tape over mouth (620-240)You have probably heard that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has vetoed a Religious Freedom Bill, SB 1062. In doing so, she has caved to the immense pressure from the homosexual activists and media that successfully distorted the bill. The New York Times called the bill “A License to Discriminate” as a loud chorus of media and their cheerleaders, business leaders, and elected officials bought into the lie that the bill was “anti-gay” and was specifically designed to discriminate against homosexuals.

The reality could not be further from the truth. The bill, which does not even mention homosexuality or ‘gay marriage’, simply clarified and attempted to increase protections for religious liberty.

Ryan Anderson with the Heritage Foundation explains:

In 1993, overwhelming bipartisan majorities of both houses of congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Act states that the federal government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it can demonstrate that such a burden “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.”

In 1999 the state of Arizona passed similar legislation that prevents the state government from similarly burdening the free exercise of religion. The bill that the Arizona legislature just passed is an amendment to the 1999 state RFRA clarifying that the protections extend to any “state action” and would apply to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.” In other words, it protects all citizens and the associations they form from undue burdens by the government on their religious liberty or from private lawsuits that would have the same result.

As a broad coalition of bipartisan legal scholars have noted, Texas and 16 other states also have state RFRAs, and at least another 12 states have similar protection in their state constitutions. We have strongly supported adding Texas to the list of states that provide the highest level of religious freedom protection in their state constitutions the past two legislative sessions and have received broad support.

Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute (who is pro ‘gay-marriage’) explains the real issue at play in SB 1062:

The prototypical scenario that SB 1062 is meant to prevent is the case of the New Mexico wedding photographer who was fined for declining to work a same-sex commitment ceremony. This photographer doesn’t refuse to provide services to gay clients, but felt that she couldn’t participate in the celebration of a gay wedding. There’s also the Oregon bakery that closed rather than having to provide wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies. Why should these people be forced to engage in activity that violates their religious beliefs?

For that matter, gay photographers and bakers shouldn’t be forced to work religious celebrations, Jews shouldn’t be forced to work Nazi rallies, and environmentalists shouldn’t be forced to work job fairs in logging communities. This isn’t the Jim Crow South; there are plenty of wedding photographers – over 100 in Albuquerque – and bakeries who would be willing to do business regardless of sexual orientation, and no state is enforcing segregation laws. I bet plenty of Arizona businesses would and do see more customers if they advertised that they welcomed the LGBT community.

At the end of the day, that’s what this is about: tolerance and respect for other people’s beliefs. While governments have the duty to treat everyone equally under the law, private individuals should be able to make their own decisions on whom to do business with and how – on religious or any other grounds. Those who disagree can take their custom elsewhere and encourage others to do the same.

It is time to cut through the lies and distortions.  Homosexual advocates are not seeking to end discrimination, but instead to use government power to impose religious discrimination on the majority of Americans that have sincere religious beliefs.

Make no mistake, if we do not have strong religious liberty protection from an overreaching government, homosexual advocates will use government to force religious individuals, businesses, and even churches, to participate and celebrate their homosexual lifestyle.


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